The NFL, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, in fact during its height, refused to delay the 2020 NFL Draft, wanting there to be no delays. They managed to have it completely virtually, in spite of the fact that most Pro Days had to be canceled and teams could not bring in prospects to their facilities, meaning that everybody was working from a limited set of information.
The difference was that they had all the game tape that they needed for anybody that they could be interested in. That might not be the case when it comes to the 2021 NFL Draft, because right now we don’t know what will happen with the NCAA.
In fact, it’s likely that we will see plans vary greatly from conference to conference, from school to school. Some seasons might be delayed, others might be canceled altogether. The end result will be players declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft en masse who might not have even played football in 2020.
A couple of days ago, Dan Wolken of USA Today Sports reported via Twitter that “the NFL isn’t interested” in possibly delaying the draft. This was after colleges inquired with the league about whether or not they would be willing to postpone the event in case seasons are pushed back in to the Spring.
One nugget I picked up today. College football officials have quietly inquired with the NFL about whether they’d be willing to push back the 2021 draft in the event of a spring season. Unsurprisingly, the NFL isn’t interested
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) July 2, 2020
Depending upon the timeline of the college season, that’s really not all too surprising. As long as they are able to get the season in, or perhaps most of it, teams are not going to be reluctant to draft those players, I don’t think.
It would negatively affect the scouting process, and potentially create substantial recency bias, with players who have the immediate after-season buzz getting drafted higher than they should have while others who need a deeper tape dive falling further.
But pushing back the NFL calendar has a ripple effect that the NFL doesn’t want to disrupt if it doesn’t have to. If the draft takes place later, that gives rookies less time to prepare for their debut season, and thus are less likely to be able to make an impact.
Needless to say, if they don’t have to alter anything else, they wouldn’t, but they’re certainly not going to rearrange their entire offseason schedule just because of a delayed draft.
Still, we ultimately don’t know how things will play out. We don’t even know what this season is going to look like, in college or in the NFL, or even if there will be one. Or if they will be able to finish what they’ve started. So thinking about next year’s draft right now seems like an impractical exercise right now.